How Queen B the Natural Candle Maker - Scaled Using Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Practices
We at Growave work with thousands of different businesses, each one unique in their own way. On occasion we happen upon a special story that beckons to be told. Some are started by families, some are bonded through friendship, and some represent a cause. We have found that there is no better assurance than a company driven by principle. In many respects your business is your mark on this world and subsequently your impact on people’s lives. Cate forged her business from the ground up over the course of twenty years, with two devoted hands “bring pure light into the world”.
Queen B's mission to Create a Sustainable and Environmentally Responsible Business
This wasn’t some overnight sensation as Shopify likes to popularize, nor was this a mega brand that took over the world with lightning speed. This was a passion project that was forged with love for the craft and a commitment to an ideal. Queen B the all-natural candle maker has been forging artisan, hand crafted and absolutely authentic sources of pure light for years. Cate in her own words said “I wanted to leave this world in better shape than how I entered it, I felt I had a responsibility towards future generations”. The amount of effort that goes into each candle is quite astonishing, there is deep intrinsic value in each and everyone of their products from the master candle maker to the little worker bee. Just imagine “a worker bee eats about 10 pounds of honey, flies 240,000 kilometers and visits 33 million flower blossoms” just to produce a pound of beeswax.
When Cate started her business some Twenty years ago she had a very clear vision, she wanted to make a responsibly sourced and sustainable product through and through. After years of honing her craft and after countless hours working with her own hands, her dedication was made manifest into what Queen B is today. Having built the company from the ground up, she slowly but surely became a permanent fixture and leading expert in her field. Amongst all the deep values behind Queen B, the fact that the business was built with two earnest hands is arguably its most admirable characteristic.
Like all entrepreneurial journeys, Queen B had its fair share of hardship. We all have our reservations, or reasons why we shouldn't take the risk. For the few brave ones willing to make that big change the benefits are justified. When it all started Cate was still working in corporate strategy, she worked there part-time for four years while Queen B was learning to stand on its own. Cate used to say to herself, “as long as I have a roof over my head and a meal on the table, then I will be just fine.” There were days when Queen B’s bank account was nearly empty, and she would put in long hours working with her own hands just to deliver a finished job. If you would ask Cate if it was all worthwhile, she would say " Taking that leap into the unknown and becoming financially independent was exhilarating." Queen B started off slow, taking baby steps and making smart budgeting decisions. That's part of the reason she is still buzzing today. Now Cate has flipped the odds and is head of a business thats sells to clients all over the world.
“I wanted my brand to be a literal breathe of fresh air, I want to leave this earth knowing that I’ve made a contribution towards the welling being of our world and children. It bothers me how we think now a days, if what we call organic fruit and vegetables is no longer just plain fruit and vegetables. This confused notion seems insincere to me, and many of the products that claim to be clean or eco-friendly are embellishing the truth for financial gain. The path to a successful and sustainable business means standing by your virtues and not cutting corners. We at Queen B try to think about the future, creating intrinsic value wherever we can and constantly exceeding our clients' expectations.”
The Problem with Modern Trends
Cate Explains how a Unique problem became her strength:
When I decided to start Queen B, I was surprised to find how little information there was on the topic. I've discovered that the introduction of Petro-Synthetic chemicals around the time of the industrial revolution, brought about the end of the traditional workers guild. These toxic chemicals instantly and unilaterally replaced the heritage of the old world with cheap and abundant alternatives. A young guild apprentice would have spent their entire life cultivating the skills necessary to make hand crafted artisan candles, and now those days are far gone. Along with the end of the Traditional Guild, came also the end of the cultured knowledge passed down through the generations.
Cate shared her thoughts on the current candle making industry, suggesting that 85% of what you would typically find available to be misleading. What is generally marketed as being "all natural" has a soy base, but necessitates chemical treatment in order to be usable. She has consciously steered away from this path stating:
“The future is never certain for soy based candle makers, because of their poor practices and weak barriers to entry. There will always be another soy based candle maker just around the corner to put them out of business. What really bothers me is the uncertainty surrounding the negative effects of these candles have on our health. I find many candle makers very insincere in the way that they market their product. I like to think that my clients are very intelligent and that they can smell an inauthentic product a mile away.”
Sustainable practices are inherently self-preserving, because of the intrinsic value laced all throughout the product. The market tends to produce low quality products, with high volatility and short product life cycle. Differentiating from the market with sustainable values makes the end result far superior than rest of the market. One of Queen B’s core principles is being eco-friendly from top to bottom and never compromising on those values. It is because of these unyielding characteristics that they have managed to grow consistently for twenty years. The materials they used in their candles, and their production methods have always exceeded expectations. Twenty years in business and still growing, there must be something about them thats special.
Queen B is a Farmer First and a Candle Maker Second
The quality of Queen B candles are rooted in the materials they're made from, and their virtues are present in every aspect of their deliverable goods. In order to produce such exceptional candles, one must use only the finest beeswax available. Cate sees Queen B as more of a farming business than anything else. You will need very special materials to deliver such a specialized product. These materials are difficult to find and thats why Queen B is so involved with the production of beeswax from the very beginning of the supply chain.
Beeswax Candles are amongst the most eco-friendly candles available in the market, Queen B’s candles are made from 100% natural beeswax. Their natural properties make them the brightest and longest burning candles available, while their flame burns with an extraordinary color and provides a delightful natural smell. These candles have a quality when burned called ionization. I was amazed to find out that these candles have the same properties as rushing water, which cleans and freshens the air around them, imagine the the fresh air after rainfall.
Sourcing the right beeswax is difficult, and the supply of quality beeswax is very limited and thats including international alternatives. Cate's business is highly dependent on the limited number of beeswax farmers in Australia. Being highly involved with her partners is an important part of the role she plays. With twenty years worth of expertise, she has managed to build strong ties with the finest bee farmers. Cate's renown has truly flourished because she filled that huge gap in knowledge left behind by the guilds. She often serves as a judge in competitions for candles and beeswax alike. Although dependency is typically frowned upon, this is no issue if you are truly committed to your craft.
When Cate was asked why Beeswax?
"If you know the candle making industry well enough, you'll find that there really isn’t any viable alternative which is all natural and also environmentally friendly. Beeswax just so happens to have the qualities of burning, brighter and longer than any other candles. Yes, it's far more difficult to produce candles made out of beeswax but Queen B isn't prepared to brand a toxic candle as out own. Mother nature is giving, generous, and we have her to thank for our candles."
What separates Queen B from its Competitors?
"It's difficult to dedicate so much effort towards sustainable products. Most candle makers don’t want to go through the hardship of making pure beeswax candles, they tend to choose the easy option because it cheaper and easier tp produce. In order to be uncompromising in the product we deliver, we had to adapt a lot, something that common candle makers are unwilling to do. The absolute premier raw material for candles is in fact beeswax, and it very unlikely that we will find a better alternative anytime soon. Our product sophistication and the costs of production are major differentiators, and thats something that brings us comfort. "
What are some novel issues you've faced?
"About eight years ago there was a harsh drought in Australia, which is not uncommon, but had a major effect on the supply of beeswax in the market. We've learned from this and since then we have gone out of the way to ensure our supply chain stayed strong. Although it isn't advisable to maintain large inventories of beeswax on paper, it was a necessary adaptation. Queen B generally keeps at least six month worth of inventory on hand to mitigate risk and at time even six month isn't enough."
"Everything that goes into our candles has to be eco-friendly, including the wick and packaging. For some things that we can't produce ourselves, we've had to rely on international sources. The pandemic presented a new novel problem which tested our relationship with a long time partners. However big the world is, eco-friendly products are always difficult to source because of their scarcity. No matter what, we are determined to carry on."
Queen B's Advise for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
My advice to young entrepreneurs and the reason why we managed to stay relevant for so long was focusing on slow steady growth. We actively tried to steer away from what’s fashionable, what trending and focus on the sustainable vision. Focusing more on smart budget decisions and taking baby steps towards our grand vision. Our vision was a completely top to bottom eco-friendly and responsibly sourced product.
How does Queen B market their business?
"The best SEO practices were never a priority for me. I think that generic SEO wording brings no real value to your business. Instead I tried to focus on exceeding expectations now and into the future, by focusing on delivering the best possible product. Neither have I ever used paid advertisement, I relied mostly on blog posts to demonstrate authority on the subject. I have made a consistent effort to build my blog, which was important in building up my authority on the subject. I also tried connecting and networking with real people that appreciate the sort of vision I have for my brand. I have been told many times that I could grow a lot quicker through paid advertisement, but I opted to spend my marketing dollars on rewarding my loyal customers. The fact that our candles were special, made the job easier as their merits speak for themselves. You will find that generic items typically lack differentiation, there nothing really interesting about your run of the mill candle. We like to think that that our candles make a difference and that our story worth telling, and so we marketed product by connecting with similar minded people that could endorse our candles."
Shopify was a brilliant decision in many ways:
"A web presence is a must have asset for any business, everything is digital now a days. Straight away I invested in a website and it turned out to be a very worth while investment. Initially we used two different bespoke websites for Queen B which had their faults. In order to roll over my old website onto a new platform I was being told I had to pay some $30,000. When the time came to make a much needed change, I looked at my many options and found Shopify. I decided to go with Shopify, because for a small monthly subscription fee you got open access to a major global platform. Shopify came with many wonderful features that added a lot of value to our store. At the time it seemed like an obvious choice, and it has proven to be a wise decision."
Queen B's App Stack
Queen B currently use several apps with their Shopify Store:
1. For logistics they use: Interparcel, Shipit and Shipstation.
2. We also use an accounting app that automates our accounting.
3. Facebook and Google Market Place
4. Klaviyo for email and sms marketing
5. and a Subscription App that allows our clients to subscribe to our service
How Growave Adds Value to Queen B
"Growave is one of our most important apps"
I have been recommended to use the bulk of my marketing budget on generating new leads, instead I decided to go against that advise and focus on my loyal clients. Thats why we always had a loyalty program at Queen B, at first we used a very simple program with limited functionality. We decided to switch to over to Growave because it seemed to fit our objectives well and at a very competitive price.
We were pleasantly surprised by how easy Growave was to use. It was just a matter of plug in and play, and the app took care of the rest. If we had any issues, the support team took care of it right away, or we would find the answer in the FAQ section.
"Growave gives us that extra bit of functionality and automation. We take advantage of the reviews function to bring some much needed authenticity to our business. With Growave we can incentivize different behaviors as well like referrals, and follows on social media. Word of mouth and reviews are every bit as important as they used to be, but now it’s much more automated and in depth. Having independent reviews is expected and valued by shoppers. If we can incentivize this behavior, then this is of enormous value to our business."
There is always a demand for environmentally friendly products, and building a sustainable business is your best assurance. This is just one story of how a eco-friednly company outlasted the competition and scaled their business with Shopify and Growave.